Weighty Issue: African-American Moms Look Over Overweight Kids

A study finds 92 percent of Black mothers don't know their toddlers are overweight.

Posted: 05/11/2012 12:45 PM EDT

If your toddler was overweight, would you be able to tell? New data suggest maybe not.


A recent study found that many mothers with overweight toddlers did not recognize that their child had a weight problem. Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine surveyed a group of 281 mothers — mostly African-American, lower income with toddlers between the ages of 13-30 months — and asked them to pick out a silhouette they thought was most similar to their own child's body type.


According to Medical News Today, here's what the researchers found:


—Ninety-four percent of the mothers with overweight kids believed their child was smaller than they actually were.

—Eighty-two percent of mothers with overweight kids were completely satisfied with their children’s size.

—Sixty-three percent of mothers with healthy weight toddlers thought they weighed less than they did; 72 percent were satisfied with their child's body size; and 21 percent thought their child was too thin and should gain weight.


So what exactly alters a mother's perception of what constitutes a healthy weight for kids vs. overweight children?


Erin Hager, the study’s lead author, told ABC News that the answer lies in the messages that society sends African-American mothers. 


"We live in this culture where people perceive overweight or chubby toddlers to be healthy infants or toddlers, and that’s been a social norm,” Hager said. “We also live in a culture where there are so many overweight kids, so the overweight body type is becoming the norm.”


Hager and her team emphasize that by not recognizing your child may be overweight, it could have some dangerous health consequences such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke if they remain overweight as they get older. And while Hager says doctors should be a force in helping parents recognize when their child has a weight problem, 75 percent of the mothers with overweight children stated that their child's doctor had never mentioned the issue. 


Clearly a gap needs to be filled. This inability to recognize when someone is overweight or obese isn't just a parent-child issue.


Last year, when Jennifer Hudson became the spokesperson for Jenny Craig, she admitted she never thought she was really overweight before she started working out and eating healthier. In her mind, she said, she looked like all of the other women from Chicago and that was "normal" to her.



Learn more about what constitutes a healthy weight here.



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